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State Senate Bill Would Ground Police Spy Drones

January 16, 2013 | WMFE - A Florida Senate panel says police should be banned from using drones to spy on citizens. A bill to prohibit law enforcement agencies from gathering evidence or other information flew through the Criminal Justice Committee on a unanimous vote Tuesday.

A State Senate Criminal Justice panel unanimously passed its first bill Tuesday. The measure would ban local and state police agencies from using drones to spy on citizens.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office recently purchased two surveillance drones for about $50,000.

Drones are also being tested by the Miami-Dade Police Department. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office tested a small drone last summer but decided it was too expensive to operate.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Joe Negron of Stuart, would make it illegal to use the unmanned planes.

Negron says a law is necessary to protect citizens’ right to privacy.

“Drones are fine to kill terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan but they shouldn’t be used to monitor the lawful activities of Floridians.” Negron said.  “We shouldn’t, as a general practice, have drones hovering in the sky monitoring Floridians. That’s not something that we believe is an appropriate role for Government.”

Privacy advocates are alarmed about the potential for use of the drones to snoop on private citizens but the Orange County Sheriff's Office and other police agencies say the drones would only be used if there is a potential loss of life, such as in a hostage crisis, and would not be deployed to spy on civilians.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee was the bill’s first stop. It has three more stops to go before heading to the Senate floor. 


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